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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Arizona Moto-Camping Adventure - Day 3

I woke up early at my hotel in Blythe, CA, looked out the window and was pleasantly surprised to see the sun shining.  With a very large weather system coming, I was afraid I might get stuck in that hotel all day.  I checked the forecast and radar and saw rain coming in from the southwest.  I knew I was going to get wet, but it looked like I might be able to avoid the major thunderstorms so I loaded the bike, checked out, and hit the road as quickly as I could.  The race against Mother Nature was on!

I took I-10 east and quickly crossed into Arizona.  I would have loved to drop south immediately to see the area around Yuma, AZ but heavy rain was closing in on that area so I continued charging due east.  I left I-10 before reaching Phoenix and dropped south on AZ-85 towards Gila Bend, AZ.  It was quite windy on that road and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a giant tumbleweed (close to 3 feet in diameter) came flying across the highway.  I had no choice but to hit it at probably 60 mph.  It exploded into bits but did absolutely no damage to me or the bike.  For some unknown reason, I found it hilarious... only in Arizona I guess.

It was almost lunch time and I hadn't eaten anything so I stopped for a late breakfast at the Best Western Space Age Lodge in Gila Bend, AZ.  Check out the UFO on top.  Breakfast was delicious.

I continued south on AZ-85 from Gila Bend and the scenery kept getting better.

Instead of heading east on AZ-86, I took a chance and headed even further south on AZ-85 to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  I got within about 7 miles of the Mexican border near Lukeville, AZ.  The scenery was beautiful but it was raining (thankfully, not too heavily).

I turned around and dark rain clouds were clearly coming from the south and west so I had to get going.  I headed back north and then cut east on AZ-86.  The interesting thing about this area of Arizona is that Border Patrol is everywhere.  I even had to go through two checkpoints.  At one they just waved me through but at another they had a dog (drug-sniffing or person-sniffing, I'm not sure) and they asked whether I was a US citizen.  When I said yes, they waved me through.  Keep in mind that all of this is happening well within the US border.  Without getting into any politics regarding immigration, the Border Patrol has a difficult job.  When you actually see the border they are trying to protect and the terrain they have to navigate, it's very impressive what they do.  I continued east towards Tucson, AZ through alternating periods of sun and rain.

I think it was somewhere a little past Sells, AZ that the rain turned to hail.  It was brief and the hailstones were tiny (thankfully), but it still hailed - I couldn't believe it!  After the hail and a little more rain I was met with an incredible sight just outside of Tucson, a full rainbow!  Actually, if you look closely, it's a double-rainbow (the second one is very faint).  Talk about extremes.

Map of Day 3's ride (384 miles, 6h 20m of riding)

View Larger Map

I continued into Tucson and got a hotel near the airport for the night.  I had some excellent enchiladas verdes with rice & beans for dinner at a place called Sunny Daze Cafe (I wished it was a sunny day).  It was a very wet ride but I was so glad that I didn't spend the day in my hotel in Blythe.  Exploding tumbleweeds, thousands of cacti, Border Patrol, rain, hail, sunshine, double-rainbows, and nearly 400 miles of riding... who could ask for more from a Friday?

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